justice in a palestinian state?

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    Justice in a Palestinian State?
    by Bruce S. Ticker
    Sep 02, '03 / 5 Elul 5763

    If a Palestinian state is established, we would expect the creation of a viable criminal court system. Will the Palestinians prosecute murder, robbery, rape and assault? Based on history, such a prospect does not look promising.

    In northern Nigeria, a 32-year-old woman faces a death sentence not for any of the aforementioned crimes, but for her March 2002 conviction for having sex outside marriage. A number of years ago, a wayward woman in Western society would have, at worst, endured social shame, and today, such conduct makes little difference to most people.

    Not in the Islamic court that convicted Amina Lawal, a divorcee, after the birth of her daughter, Wasila, who is nearly two years old.

    The Islamic Shariah judges ruled that Lawal be buried up to her neck in sand and stoned to death. With appeals underway, the courts directed that the execution be postponed until her child is weaned. The New York Times related that on Wednesday, Aug. 27, a Shariah prosecutor, Nurulhuda Muhammad Darma, argued that her pregnancy and divorced status were “enough evidence” of a crime, saying, “There is no other excuse that is acceptable.”

    It got more bizarre as Aminu Musa Yawuri, one of her lawyers, employed a civil liberties-style tactic: An earlier confession was invalid, because nobody had explained to her the nature of the offense or the punishment. Yawuri claimed that under some interpretations of Shariah, babies can remain in gestation in their mother’s womb for up to five years, making it possible under Islam that her former husband could have fathered the child. She had divorced four years ago.

    Since Islam recognizes Jesus, perhaps Yawuri could have tried an immaculate conception defense.

    Is this the kind of justice we’ll find in a Palestinian state? This is a culture in which blood feuds and honor killings run rampant. A group of Palestinians inside a courtroom some months ago rushed a defendant on trial for collaborating with Israel and killed him before the trial could be completed.

    Obviously, such practices contradict those of our own legal system. In a blood feud, one takes the law into his own hands. Killing a woman because she flouts romantic customs – a prime reason for honor killings – is murder. Killing a defendant in the middle of a trial is vigilante behavior.

    None of that is acceptable in a civilized society.

    It will take a sea change in Arab culture for the Palestinians to create a legal system which prohibits honor killings, Shariah courts, lynch mobs and blood feuds. Can the leaders of a Palestinian state accomplish such ends?

    Stoned justice, so to speak, is no justice.
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